By Virna DePaul
Since the age of eighteen, Joseph has been assassinating people on behalf of a cause that he believes in but doesn’t fully understand. The War is ageless, hidden in the shadows, governed by a rigid set of rules, and fought by two distinct sides-one good, one evil. The only unknown is which side is which. Soldiers in the War hide in plain sight, their deeds disguised as accidents or random acts of violence amidst an unsuspecting population ignorant of the brutality that is always inches away.
Killing people is the only life Joseph has ever known, and he’s one of the best at it. But when a job goes wrong and he’s sent away to complete a punishingly dangerous assignment, Joseph meets a girl named Maria, and for the first time in his life his singleminded, bloody purpose fades away.
Before Maria, Joseph’s only responsibility was dealing death to the anonymous targets fingered by his superiors. Now he must run from the people who have fought by his side to save what he loves most in this world. As Children of Paranoia reaches its heart-in-throat climax, Joseph will learn that only one rule remains immutable: the only thing more dangerous than fighting the War…is leaving it.
“Like The Bourne Identity turned inside-out, [Trevor Shane’s] protagonist navigates a world where banal choices like going to the ATM have life-and-death consequences. Filled with sharp plotting and vivid action, this book will stay with you long after you’ve raced to the end.” –Chris Farnsworth, author of Blood Oath
“A claustrophobic, relentless, fascinating ride that will have you eyeballing everyone you pass in the street.” –Marcus Sakey, author of The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Recently, I interviewed Mr. Shane and here’s what he had to say about his writing journey, his story, and his upcoming release.
In Children of Paranoia, you depict a secret war between two factions who abide by three rules. What do these rules reflect about the parties involved?
Children of Paranoia is set in contemporary times. It takes place now so the secret war, even though it’s hundreds of years old, is literally going on just below the surface of everyday society. In some ways, it’s like Fight Club on steroids except that the stakes are higher. Though the rules have different significance to different characters, they can be viewed simply as pragmatic rules necessary for the continuation of the war. The first rule, “No killing innocent bystanders” is simply meant to shield the War from scrutiny from the outside world. You can see this in the lack of desire to police gang or mob violence as long as they are only killing each other. The second rule, “No killing anyone under the age of eighteen” is meant to ensure that the two factions still have something to fight for, that their worlds don’t sink so far into chaos that they abandon all hope. The third rule is a necessary logical conclusion from the first two rules. As I said, however, different characters have different takes on the rules. For example, Joseph, one of the main character, believes that the rules are the only spark of sanity in his otherwise crazy life. Without them, he thinks he’d go mad. Of course, that gets turned on its head later in the book.
The Saturday Evening Post described your story as having two distinct parts. The first half is described as “weighty” and dealing with war issues. The second half is described as “two kids” on the run from killers. Do you agree with this distinction? Can you describe the “kids” in your book?
First, I’d like to say how excited I was by the Saturday Evening Post review. Not only did they love Children of Paranoia, but the reviewer also really seemed to clamp on to its predominant themes. That being said, I don’t know if I would break the book down into two distinct parts though there definitely is a turning point in the book where the plot shifts from world building to more pure action. Even during the weighty first half, however (which the Saturday Evening Post actually preferred), there’s a ton of action and none of the weighty themes disappear in the second half, they’re simply approached from a different perspective. So I guess I agree with them but think that it’s a pretty nuanced distinction.
The “kids” on the run from killers are the two main characters, Joseph and Maria. Joseph is a killer himself, born and bred into this underground war and taught, at an early age, to be a killer. When the book begins, Maria doesn’t know anything about the war, even though it’s being raged just below the surface of the world she lives in. In a lot of ways, Maria is the stand in for the reader because they are both new to the Children of Paranoia world. The running that Joseph and Maria do is sometimes very traditional running with car chases, gunfights and stops at seedy motels. At other times, however, the running is really unique because, in the Children of Paranoia world, anyone you meet might be the person who is chasing you and you may not know it until it’s too late. That’s where the paranoia comes in.
Is there a message in your novels you want readers to grasp?
My number one goal in writing is to try to entertain. My hope is that people pick up Children of Paranoia, read the first dark, bloody chapter, and get hooked to the point where they have trouble putting the book back down again. That being said Children of Paranoia tackles some pretty heavy themes, including war, propaganda, violence and family. I would love it if, after readers finish what they think was a fast-paced and fun read, they’re left thinking about these themes and thinking about them differently than they would have had they not read the book. The purpose of the narrative structure of the book is largely to twist people into viewing certain things, like war and what they’d be willing to give up for family, from a perspective that they aren’t used to.
What are you reading now?
As those who follow me on Twitter (@childofparanoia) know, I’m currently reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell based on a recommendation from a colleague. I never read anything by David Mitchell before. I’m really enjoying this book. It’s constantly undermining my expectations and taking me in a direction I didn’t expect to go.
Generally, I try to read a lot of different genres and authors so that I can see the way different people approach certain ideas.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
For me the most challenging part of writing is that moment when I have ideas I love running through in my head but my fingers have yet to touch the keyboard. That moment is almost physically painful. It is so full of fear and self-doubt and, if I let it, it can stretch out for what seems like forever. As soon as I let my fingers hit the keyboard, everything usual flows again but overcoming that moment is always a challenge.
How has your writing process changed as your career has developed?
Children of Paranoia is my debut novel so I’m only now starting to see how my writing process has changed by virtue of working with a traditional publishing house, professional editors and deadlines. One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is to trust my readers and to allow certain ideas to slip from being on the page to being hidden between the lines. I believe that once you finish a book it’s not yours any more. At that point, it belongs to the readers. So I’ve found that I have a lot of ideas and background now that I end up leaving off the page so that the readers can fill in the blanks for themselves. You can’t control how your audience will react to your work. All you can do is guide them somewhere and hope they enjoy the ride. In this vein, I find that my first drafts are usually about a full twenty-five percent longer than my finished work.
What are your thoughts on marketing and the e-book revolution?
My goal in writing is simply to reach as many readers as possible. I think most authors would agree. I think that the e-book revolution is ultimately going to be a good thing because it will give a lot of authors a chance to reach an audience even if they weren’t able to get past the traditional gatekeepers (and there are tons of potential reasons for this only one of which is poor quality). That being said, I’ve gained so much from my experience working with my agent and the editing team at Dutton. The traditional publishers also serve a real purpose in allowing writers to write while they handle the marketing and other business aspects of publishing. My only real fear from the e-book revolution is that the ability to self-promote might become more important than the ability to write.
Can you tell us a little about the next writing project you’re working on?
Children of Paranoia is the first book in a trilogy so I’m currently working with my editor to finalize the second installment. The idea is to have one book come out each year starting this September with Children of Paranoia. It’s a lot of fun to further flesh out the ideas from the first book in the second (and eventually third) book and to drop in some surprise turns. While the three books are connected thematically and through their characters, one of my goals was to make each of the three books really distinct. I believe that Children of Paranoia stands up pretty well by itself but I am also excited to see how people react to the entire trilogy.
Trevor Shane is the author of Children of Paranoia, the first book in a trilogy set to be published by Dutton. Children of Paranoia is Trevor’s first novel. Trevor was born and raised in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Georgetown University Law Center. Trevor currently resides in Brooklyn with his wife and son.
To learn more about Trevor, please visit his website.